Mal took a deep breath and entered Jayne's cabin, prepared for nearly anything but what he saw.
Jayne smiled widely at Mal and showed him a notepad filled with phrases like; ‘Jayne, hero of Mud Town – from there to your bed’, ‘Jayne: a feminine name for the manliest of men’, and even a simple ‘Jayne: man-ho for hire’.
“What do you think?” Jayne asked as he handed Mal the notebook.
Mal looked through the various phrases and noticed some surprisingly good artwork off to the side that he thought was doodles until he took a closer look; there were some that looked like it belonged on a Core wall somewhere that managed to convey Jayne's face in just a few lines that quite frankly impressed the hell out of him.
“I know painting and such is a bit girly,” Jayne began.
Mal interrupted him, pointing out the one he liked, “The only way that could be more manly is if you painted it with your dick. It’s as male as you can get; simple, straightforward and easy to understand, without any of that fru fru crap.”
“And the title?” Jayne asked, eager as a puppy waiting to be walked.
“Just like the picture, use the simple straightforward one,” Mal suggested, wondering what was going on.
“Thanks Mal!” Jayne declared, rushing Mal out of his quarters.
Mal stood in the hall for a moment, staring at the closed door before breaking out in a grin; he'd managed to get away with no new mental scars and now he could eat breakfast in peace.
Returning to the ship's dining area he sighed mournfully, as all the food was gone and the crew and passengers just laid there too stuffed to move.
Willow saw the look on his face and chuckled before muttering something too low for anyone to hear clearly as a giant plate of food materialized on the table.
Mal was a bit shocked at seeing visible magic; as it had been in the back of his mind that the bit with the pineapple could have been a bit of forbidden tech, of course this didn't stop him from quickly digging in as he saw the crew eying his plate.
“So, what happened with Jayne?” Inara asked.
“No idea,” Mal replied in between bites, “he's happy as I've ever seen him and rushed me out after asking my opinion on some artwork he drew.”
“Jayne?” Simon asked doubtfully.
“Yep,” Mal confirmed, “and it weren't half bad either.”
“Everyone has hidden depths if you know where to look,” Inara interjected serenely.
“Yeah, but this Jayne!” Kaylee complained, “He's not allowed to have hidden depths, it’s against the laws of man and god.”
“He drew something and I think it fits him rather well; it was like those old flimsies of cave art where with just a line or two they'd draw the spirit of something.”
“I'd like to make a snide comment, because this is Jayne who believes culture is something you go to the doctor to get cured of; but I can see how that type of artwork would suit him perfectly,” Simon reluctantly admitted.
“So… he's not upset?” Faith asked curiously.
“Nope, whatever you did may have upset him last night but Jayne's a simple man. Not much upsets him for long,” Mal replied.
A couple of minutes later a grinning Jayne popped his head in. “I gotta go do something, be back by lunch. Bye!”
“Anyone volunteering to find out why Jayne is so happy?” Mal asked.
River quickly climbed inside Xander's shirt before anyone could ask her.
“I'm on my period,” Xander explained solemnly as he stood up and waddled off.
“Finding out why he's so happy could be as mentally damaging as why he was sad,” Simon warned while Faith rolled her eyes.
Dawn's eyes followed Xander's retreating form. “We could just wait until it either goes away or explodes,” she suggested absently.
“Vote for avoidance and ignorance as long as possible?” Willow asked hopefully.
“Aye!” everyone chorused.
“Motion carried,” Willow declared, “so, what are our plans?”
“Well, you can teach Simon and Kaylee how to do sanctuary runes and show them how to ward their quarters while I do the same with Inara and Mal,” Dawn suggested.
“Sounds good,” Mal said perking up, “after that we can send a wave out for a new pilot, unless one of you is one?”
“Our skills mainly involve hitting things with sharp bits of metal,” Faith offered.
“A new pilot?” Kaylee asked sadly.
“We need a pilot,” Mal said quietly.
“You don't have a pilot?” Willow asked, wondering how they got around without one.
“River's a good pilot,” Simon spoke up defensively.
“Yes she is,” Mal said firmly to cut off any further protest the rest of the crew might have made, “but I've also seen her get up in the middle of landing and walk off. I ain't saying we replace her, I say we get a backup pilot so when River decides to go do something else they can take over.”
“It’s going to be hard to find someone who'll fit in,” Kaylee said grudgingly.
“Yeah it is,” Mal agreed, “so the sooner we start looking the faster we'll find him. I figure we might as well start looking now since Zoe ...”
“Who knows, we may get lucky!” Kaylee interjected brightly trying to change the subject, since Zoe leaving was a sore point with Mal though everyone agreed raising a kid on a ship wasn't a good idea.
Julie Crenshaw hummed while she planned out how to infiltrate Serenity; she had half the table covered in pages of data and plans with titles like, 'Infiltrate Serenity Plan #12, Seduce member of crew and marry them by local custom.' and the other half with waffles as she ate breakfast.
“More coffee?” the waitress asked.
“No, I'm good,” Julie said cheerfully before a beep from her palm pal let her know something of interest had just been discovered.
“Okay; now, why should we hire you?” Mal asked the scruffy teen as he sat inside the overlarge closet he was using as an interview room.
“Hire me? I was just going to ask how much you charge for passengers,” the boy replied.
“Passengers?” Mal asked.
“Yeah, I'd give my right arm to get off this rock and onto one of the Core worlds.”
“Unless we get paid a lot of credits we stick to the fringes.”
The kid sighed and slunk out the door.
Sticking his head out he saw that half of the crowd of twenty plus people were kids, who probably wouldn't need to shave for a few years yet.
“I'm looking to hire a pilot, not book passengers and it ain't likely that we'll be headed toward the Core for years to come,” Mal announced, causing most of the crowd to leave.
Looking at the seven who were left, he waved at the next one in line; a young man with three days stubble on his face who seemed to at least know something about military bearing.
“So, why should we hire …” Mal began when he heard a noise and poked his head out of the room.
The line had shortened by one and there was someone groaning at the foot of the ramp; figuring he must have tripped while leaving, Mal ignored it.
“Okay, now as I was saying....” Mal began again only to sigh as he heard another thump from outside the room and stuck his head out once more.
The bald man who had been second to last outside was now unconscious at the foot of the ramp, collapsed atop the guy who'd fallen down the ramp.
The girl at the back of the line smiled cheerfully at him while the three men in front of her looked at her nervously.
Shrugging Mal returned his attention to the man he was interviewing. “So, why should we hire you as a pilot?”
The sounds of fighting and a muffled scream came from outside, but Mal ignored them.
“I've got over a decade flying experience,” the man replied, “mostly on older ships, if not quite as old as this one. I've never crashed one nor been thrown off a ship, save the last one, because the Captain said I was making time with his wife.”
“Were you?” Mal asked curiously.
The man's face contorted in disgust. “Good god, no! If you'd ever seen her you'd understand why I say that I'd rather be spaced than be stuck in the same room with her.”
“You know how some ugly women make up for it by having a great personality?”
“Yeah,” Mal agreed.
“She ain't one of them. No, the Captain got a chance to hire a good lookin' woman he'd seen on the side once or twice. I got the old heave ho, and I decided if he was going to spit on my loyalty and service I'd clue his wife in. So I got blacklisted to boot.”
“Sounds reasonable to me,” Mal said, “so far you've got the most promise of the prospective pilots, but then again you're also the first I've interviewed.”
“Well I'm happy to hear that,” the man said as Mal escorted him out.
The two froze as they stared at the pile of unconscious interviewees and the smiling girl with the brown hair who was dressed almost exactly like one of the blue gloves; the only real difference being her indigo gloves and from what Mal could recall from the ones he'd run across they were very picky about their uniforms.
“I guess you're the next interviewee, by the process of elimination,” Mal said dryly, wondering what was going on.
“Julie Crenshaw,” she offered, holding out a hand to shake.
Mal shook it gingerly. “You aren't planning on knocking out everyone who applies are you?”
“I've got some shopping still to do and some information to pick up to make myself indispensable to the crew,” she explained, “so I had to speed up things a little.”
“So I don't have to worry about you knocking out, Tony?”
“Getting arrested for attacking a local law enforcement officer would take even more time out of my schedule than making time for you to interview them,” Julie said pointing at the mound of bodies.
“What?” Mal asked, looking at Tony suspiciously.
“Craig Thompson is a lieutenant in the local constabulary and in charge of investigating any smuggling that’s going on.”
“Well… Go se,” Craig said with a sigh.
“That's one way of putting it,” Mal said.
“We aren't a smuggling vessel,” Mal said, “we don't go anywhere where smuggling would be profitable, except harmful drugs and the like that anyway, but we don’t touch that.”
“There are reports of you rescuing someone who was being kept in a top secret and very illegal laboratory, for use in immoral experiments,” Julie said cheerfully as River and Xander came aboard arguing in some strange language while Dawn explained to Inara what the language was.
“Julie!” Xander exclaimed happily before snatching her up in a hug and bending her over for a tonsil cleaning kiss.
“Ahem!” River said, tapping Xander firmly on the shoulder.
Xander stepped to the side as River stepped forward and exclaimed “Julie!” before sweeping the girl up in a tonsil cleaning kiss.
A half a minute later the two were on their way again as if nothing had happened, discussing Shakespeare in Klingon.
“I think I'll like working here!” Julie declared brightly, handing the Captain a folder and leaving.
“Who was that?” Inara asked.
“Looks to be our new pilot,” Mal declared dryly.
“Who's this then?” Dawn asked.
“Undercover officer, checking for smuggling.”
“Is he here for Jayne or Simon?” Inara asked.
“Neither, and what do you mean Simon?! Jayne I can see breaking laws just by being himself, but Simon?”
“Insists on having a fully functional and stocked med-bay and you know how regulations are outside of hospitals,” Inara explained.
Craig perked up. “Is he fully trained? Please say he is.”
“Yeah, Core trained and all,” Mal said.
“Thank the gods!” Craig exclaimed. “How much would he charge to give some training to our emergency response team?”
“Knowing Simon; not much,” Mal admitted, “he likes to use his training.”
The undercover officer beamed. “I can't tell you how happy this makes me. Feel free to smuggle anything except children or organs.”
“Things that bad around here?” Dawn asked, wondering what she'd missed.
“No, but our emergency response team's training was done by books and holos, so anywhere they show up to practice is an emergency as far as I'm concerned. Well, it was nice meeting you all but I have half a shift left and two more ships to check. Send the doc along when you get the chance and we'll let him raid the forbidden property locker as payment,” the officer babbled out before leaving with a spring in his step.
“I think I need a drink,” Mal declared shaking his head.
“I'll join you!” Faith said brightly.
“When did you get here?” Dawn asked.
“When he offered to spring for drinks,” Faith replied, dragging a protesting Mal off.
“We'd better go keep them out of trouble,” Inara said with a chuckle.
“Ah foolish optimism,” Dawn said with a grin as they followed the pair, “I remember when I said something similar and actually believed it.”
“Everyone's gone now,” River said with a smile.
“For the next two and a half hours,” Xander agreed.
“Wanna play doctor?”
“Okay, but no hogging the stethoscope.” AN: Typing by Godogma!